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Optimal contract design: For whom?


  • Nicolas P. B. Bollen
  • Tom Smith
  • Robert E. Whaley


In designing a derivative contract, an exchange carefully considers how its attributes affect the expected profits of its members. On November 3, 1997, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange doubled its tick size of its S&P 500 futures contract and halved the denomination, providing a rare opportunity to examine empirically the search for an optimal contract design. This article measures changes in the trading environment that occurred in the days surrounding the contract redesign. We find a discernible change in the incidence of price clustering, an increase in the bid/ask spread, a reduction in trading volume, and no meaningful change in dollar trade size. These results suggest that the contract redesign did not increase accessibility but did increase market maker revenue. Despite the increase, however, the bid/ask spread of the S&P 500 futures contract remains low relative to the costs of market making and the spreads in markets for competing instruments. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Jrl Fut Mark 23:719–750, 2003

Suggested Citation

  • Nicolas P. B. Bollen & Tom Smith & Robert E. Whaley, 2003. "Optimal contract design: For whom?," Journal of Futures Markets, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(8), pages 719-750, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jfutmk:v:23:y:2003:i:8:p:719-750

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    Cited by:

    1. Thanos Verousis & Pietro Perotti & Georgios Sermpinis, 2018. "One size fits all? High frequency trading, tick size changes and the implications for exchanges: market quality and market structure considerations," Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 353-392, February.
    2. Gunther Capelle-Blancard & Mo Chaudhury, 2007. "Price clustering in the CAC 40 index options market," Applied Financial Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(15), pages 1201-1210.
    3. Murphy Jun Jie Lee, 2013. "The Microstructure of Trading Processes on the Singapore Exchange," PhD Thesis, Finance Discipline Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney, number 4, July-Dece.
    4. Martinez, Valeria & Tse, Yiuman, 2019. "The impact of tick-size reductions in foreign currency futures markets," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 32-38.
    5. Trin Sittisawad & Pariyada Sukcharoensin, 2018. "Success Factors of Financial Derivatives Markets in Asia," Asia-Pacific Financial Markets, Springer;Japanese Association of Financial Economics and Engineering, vol. 25(2), pages 71-86, June.
    6. Kent Wang, 2010. "Forecasting volatilities in equity, bond and money markets: A market-based approach," Australian Journal of Management, Australian School of Business, vol. 35(2), pages 165-180, August.
    7. Murphy Jun Jie Lee, 2013. "The Microstructure of Trading Processes on the Singapore Exchange," PhD Thesis, Finance Discipline Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney, number 2-2013, January.
    8. Tu, Anthony H. & Wang, Ming-Chun, 2007. "The innovations of e-mini contracts and futures price volatility components: The empirical investigation of S&P 500 stock index futures," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 198-211, April.
    9. Edward Curran & Jack Hunt & Vito Mollica, 2020. "Trading protocols and price discovery: Implicit transaction costs in Indian single stock futures," Journal of Futures Markets, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 40(11), pages 1793-1806, November.

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